River Havel: Orinoco Flow In Brandenburg

Corona forces us to rethink – precisely, traveling was influenced. Chris und Carsten Stricker from Berlin had actually planed a long-distance trip. This turned into a one week boats trip on the Havel. Here is their exciting and amusing report.

Hi! It’s Chris & Carsten once more. Our original plan for 2020 was to travel to the States again, to lovely California. Those travel plans evaporated in March 2020 because of the worldwide Covid19 pandemic. So in May we made a decision “Pro Brandenburg”. We deperately needed to get out of our home offices and had always had the idea in the back of our minds to take a boat trip on the Havel or Müritz river. Now this was the ideal opportunity. Unfortunately, many people seemed to have a similar idea. So it took a few days until Chris finally found what we were looking for: the yacht charter “Marina Alter Hafen” in Mildenberg near Zehdenick. We could hardly believe that we were able to charter a Pedro Skiron 35 ship of almost 11 meters length and 9 tons (!) weight there – and we were even allowed to sail it! To be on the safe side, we went to the Ziegeleipark Mildenberg on a dreary weekend early May to have a look at the marina and ships. And we were more than positively surprised. On site we met a couple who had already chartered there several times and they too were completely enthusiastic about the ships and the services of that rental company. So we signed the necessary contracts and stared to look forward to our travel week end of June.

The charter certificate in our pocket

The charter agreement includes a three-hour introductory course in which you are familiarized with the basics of inland navigation and awarded with a “charter certificate”, with which you are then allowed to drive the boat for the rental period. The introduction itself was entertaining, a large part of the 3-hour course was dedicated to stories from the eventful past of the instructor, who has travelled and surfed all over the world and who was not short of anecdotes to tell. On to the practical part! Now it was time to steer a 9-ton ship. This also worked reasonably well, even the “reverse parking manoeuvre”, i.e. mooring, was successful at first try. So we spent the first evening in the old marina and had a delicious dinner in the restaurant there, before we lay down to rest in our new “motorhome on the water”. The interior of the “Elisabeth” – that was the name of our yacht – left nothing to be desired: 2 double beds, a small pantry , dining table, 2 small bathrooms with shower option – the boat could also comfortably accommodate four or five people.

Cast off

Early next morning our journey started, we headed north with the destination Rheinsberg. As we only had one week at our disposal, the trip up to the Müritz seemed too long and exhausting. So we had decided to take the two or three day trip to this historic city. This decision was smart, because it turned out that despite the manageable distances, everything takes quite a while. The main reason for this are the many locks that regulate the flow speed of the Havel. Such a lock passage takes between 20 minutes and 2 hours or more, depending on the waiting time. During holiday periods ships can sometimes get into a real traffic jams and then wait in a queue for half a day to enter the lock. We were lucky: 2 hours was the maximum wait for us.
The first day on the boat was admittedly a little exhausting and challenging for us. It turned out to be more difficult than expected to drive such a big and not very manoeuvrable boat with only two persons and to do all the work with only four hands while mooring in the lock or harbour. Fortunately, all this worked out without any major collateral damage to people and material. Only during one manoeuvre the two rookie seamen both sprained their toes. Note: do not wear flip-flops, but boat shoes or similar!

Tropical feeling along the Havel

However, the landscape and the weather compensated us for all effort and black toes. It is hard to imagine that here, in the middle of Brandenburg, there are such natural waterways, such dense forests and animals like otters, water snakes and birds like cranes, herons or cuckoos can be observed from the boat. At a maximum speed of 9 km/h we sometimes had the feeling of not being on the Havel but the Orinoco, so picturesque and almost exotic the clear river meanders through the dense, deep green nature. On top of that there were temperatures around 30 °C. So we were very much looking forward to a cool drink in our first harbour, in Fürstenberg.
Unfortunately, our first harbour arrival was not so elegant. But thanks to the help of other boat owners and the harbor master (who was probably afraid for his pier) we came to a safe place for the night with a beautiful view. As spectacular as this view was, it made us think. On the opposite side of the Stolpsee one can see a large wall and prison-like fortifications. Our research showed that this was the remains and the memorial of the former women’s concentration camp Ravensbrück. The Nazis had locked off tens of thousands of women there because of their faith, their political views or any other idiotic reasons and murdered many of them. So this evening on the Havel was quite romantic – but also left us pensive.

Brave rescue of the fender

Early next morning the journey continued towards Rheinsberg – another wonderful trip through the natural waterways of the Havel. And the navigation of the ship became a bit smoother. There was only one incident to report, because we lost a fender during a lock approach. Carsten saved the balloon with a courageous jump into the pleasantly warm water of the river Havel and thus provided the waiting passengers with something to talk about. After this experience, we had to take a break and decided to spend the night in the Marina Wolfsbruch, a modern holiday resort with small houses in Scandinavian style and a spacious harbour area. We took a short walk to the next village and had a nice evening in the quaint and quirky restaurant Hühnerhof.
APretty releaxed we made the few kilometers to Rheinsberg in the next morning. I have to admit that we did not know this town at all before and this proved to be a real knowledge gap. The port facility in the Grienericksee is beautifully located in the vicinity of the historic castle, with a view of a spacious park with an obelisk on the west side of the lake. Rheinsberg Castle is considered an example of the Frederician Rococo and served as a model for Sanssouci Castle. Within walking distance of the harbour there are several great restaurants, the Kurt Tucholsky Museum and the old town of Rheinsberg with many small shops, boutiques and cafés. We spent a very pleasant evening therew which was not too long. The reason was our plan was to start our way back relatively early. We did not want to get caught in the kilometre-long queue at the Wolfsbruch lock, which we had noticed on the way to Rheinsberg. Our plan worked out, we were there with the second filling of the lock. So we were able to make some kilometers during the day and were back in Fürstenberg in the afternoon. The rest of the return journey in the direction of Zehdenick was very relaxed, the weather was perfect and we had the boat under control and all the time in the world to return to our starting point in Mildenberg. The return of the boat after a restful night in the new harbour was also super smooth: we had not done any damage to the boat – and the fender was back after all.

In summary we can say that this one-week trip can definitely keep up with some of the long distance journeys we have made.The adventure factor, the nature experience and the hospitality of the people in Brandenburg has been amazing. The big advantage of such a boat trip is the short journey (just about 1.5 hours from Berlin by car) and the fact that your permanent occupation with the boat sets you instantly into travel mode so you have no chance to worry about stress at work or worldwide pandemics anymore. The ship and the landscape demand your full attention and reward you with lasting pictures and memories. And what more can one hope for when travelling along the beautiful Havel, the Orinoco of Brandenburg?

boat trip, charter

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